Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nate Ryan's love-hate-love story

USA Today motorsports writer Nate Ryan is getting married in August. Have you heard the tale? It's your classic love story -- all except the part about Nate's fiancee once hating his guts. Oh, and that 16-year stretch when they didn't even talk to each other.

But maybe you have to love someone to hate them that much, don't you think? So that’s where we’ll start and end this little story that deserves to be told about two well known sportswriters who fell in, then out, then back in love again. We’ll get to all that messy stuff in a minute.

Nate met Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland back when they were both journalism students at Northwestern University in the mid 1990s. Nate was a senior, Jodie a sophomore. He was her editor at The Daily Northwestern student newspaper and they had a class together as well. 

"I remember purposely missing class so I would have to call him to find out what happened that day,'' said Jodie, who mustered the courage to overcome her own shyness and asked Nate to her sorority spring formal in 1995.

That was the same spring Nate bought a brand new red Toyota Tercel, graduated from college and drove to California to take a job covering sports for the San Bernardino Sun. They dated for nearly two years while Jodie was still at Northwestern.

The distance was tough; their youth made it tougher. Couple the ambition to follow their own career paths with the realization that Jodie was on a fast track to a major metro while Nate was going to take longer to get there, and that was one too many obstacles to overcome.

Nate ended the relationship in 1997. Jodie couldn’t forgive him for the longest time.

"It broke my heart,'' she said. "I guess I thought he was my true love. Turns out, I was right."

But it would take years to get there.